Celebrating Picture Book Month and Remembering Dianne de Las Casas

This marks the 5th year that our school has celebrated Picture Book Month. This wonderful event was founded by Dianne de Las Casas, author and storyteller extraordinaire.  The children’s book world sadly lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, so it makes this year’s Picture Book Month bittersweet.

I came to know Dianne through Picture Book Month. Each year I host a Picture Book Smackdown at the close of November which brings together students in multiple states via a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books. We also invite authors to join us and share their favorite picture books too. For the past few years, Dianne has also joined us.

When we connected with Dianne, she was always full of stories and blinged out with her tiara, sparkly attire, bright nails, and bubbly personality. We always laughed because no matter how much we tried to keep the smackdown moving along, Dianne was always hard to contain.  She wanted to share so many picture books with students and read aloud her favorite texts. Dianne was such a sweet and giving soul.   She even sent us autographed copied of her book to thank us for celebrating picture books.

We will greatly miss her this year. Katie Davis, another member of the Picture Book Month Community, posted a nice video remembering Dianne and her picture book legacy.

Even though we are sad, we are remembering, celebrating, and honoring Dianne by continuing to carry on the Picture Book Month legacy.  One way we do this is by book talking picture books every day on BTV, our morning broadcast.

Another way is by hold a Picture Book Month Challenge. I encourage students to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November. During the challenge, they must read at least 10 picture books, which includes some picture books from specific genre sections of the library plus a couple of “student choice” sections.  Every picture book section is labeled with a Picture Book Month logo so students can easily see where picture books are located in the library.

This year, I’ve also made a picture book Flipgrid where I hope students, teachers, and families will share picture books during November and beyond.

I’m also planning this year’s Picture Book Smackdown where students from multiple grades will book talk picture books with students in other states.

I hope you’ll consider celebrating Picture Book Month in your own school.  There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just read picture books and celebrate their importance in the world. They are a powerful window and mirror into the world.

The Many Formats of Book Club

For the first quarter of the year, I’ve been exploring how to start book clubs in our school in a variety of ways.  I hoped that by offering a variety of ways to engage with a book, that we would support many different interests, availabilities, and format preferences.  Our book for quarter 1 was The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall.  I offered 2 main ways of participating in our quarter 1 book club: 1 was reading the book during a lunch book club with me and another was a family book club where students and families read the book together.

For both book clubs, I created a shared Flipgrid where readers could leave thoughts, questions, favorite parts, etc for various segments of the book.

My lunch book club met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to chat about the book as well as listen to me read aloud.  Then, they would continue a set number of pages before we met again.  The students enjoyed this time out of the noisy lunchroom.  We got to know one another better through our discussion of the hard topics of the book, and we had many laughs and sad moments as read aloud.  Many students read way ahead in the book because they were so excited and eager to know what happened, but they continued to come and listen to me re-read the parts they had already read and continued to contribute to the conversations.

Nine other elementary schools in our district also read the book.  We decided that at the end of our school-level book clubs, we would use Skype and Google Hangouts to connect our schools together across the district so that our students could talk to one another.  My students connected with Angie Pendley’s students at Gaines Elementary.  We used Google Hangouts and a set of slides to guide our conversations.  Students took turns at each school stepping up to the camera and sharing their thoughts about the questions. It was fun to hear from students in another school and see a different perspective on the book as well as many connections to what we experienced when we read.

The family book club read at home on their own and we held one face-to-face meeting at the end of the book.  We had about 21 families reading the book, so I hoped to have a large group discussion.

However, due to many schedule conflicts, we had a very small group.  Even though it was a small group, it was a mighty discussion.  We chatted as we gathered and shared some snacks. The author, Shelley Pearsall, offered to connect with us for a few minutes over Skype, so we took time to connect with her and ask some questions about the book.  We learned how the title of the book started out as “Metallic”, but the publisher changed it to the title we see today.  We learned about the research that Shelley Pearsall put into the book to match the 60’s time period as well as learn some facts about the life of James Hampton and his art piece.

Some of our families asked about the other characters in the book and how their stories came about.  We even got to see a brainstorming page that Shelley Pearsall used to map out the 7 things and their connections to Arthur and the story.

After our Skype, we used the same questions that our lunch book club used to have a rich discussion.  I loved hearing parents and children talking together on equal ground and sharing their wonderings, excitement, and sadness from the book.  I definitely want to build upon what we experienced because it was a wonderful first experience that I would love to see more people be a part of.

For quarter 2, I’m trying to build upon our book clubs.  With the help of 2 UGA students, I am continuing the 4th grade lunch book club and adding on a 5th grade group.  I’m also expanding he family book club to included more grade levels in the hope that more people will be able to attend our in-person event.  This time we are using 3 different books instead of the same one.  As always, it’s a work in progress, but our reading community is growing.  One of the things I loved hearing from some of the parents is how excited they were to read together as a family. I also had family members tell me they had never been a part of a book club and they were excited to finally try one out.

Onward we go.

Poem In Your Pocket: Connecting Our Voices Through Poetry

For 2 solid days, students in every class have been visiting the library to share poetry into our open microphone for poem in your pocket day.  As always, this was a special day where every single student in our school had an opportunity to step up and share their voice through poetry that they carried in their pockets.  Many students shared original poems which ranged from silly to humorous to scary to sentimental to observant.  Many students also shared favorite poems that they copied from our large poetry collection in the library.  Sometimes it takes a lot to get up in front of your peers and read aloud, but I love the accessibility of poetry. It can be short but powerful.  It can give you a chance to shine before your nerves kick in.  It can quickly create reactions from your audience. It creates moments.

As usual, there were many special moments.  Teachers shared poems from their phones in their pockets.

A student who spoke limited English, broke out of her comfort zone to share a poem all in English with a friend standing by her side.  PreK poets recited their very first poems of their school career as their teachers whispered the words into their ears.

5th graders filled up their poetry slot by repeatedly going to the microphone to share poems from the books displayed on our poetry tables.  Families who couldn’t be here with us in the room were able to watch their children perform via our live Google Hangout.  Sweet poems about brothers were shared.

Tweets rolled in via our Twitterfall wall.

A retiring paraprofessional shared her final Poem In Your Pocket moment.

If you missed any of our poetry readings live, you can watch any of the archives by visiting our Smore.  Take a moment to look at all of the poets in the gallery below.

 

Join Us for Poem In Your Pocket April 6 & 7, 2017

One of our newer traditions at Barrow is to participate each year in Poem In Your Pocket Day.  This national event takes place on April 27 this year, but due to our state testing, we will celebrate a bit early.

On these days, all students carry an original or favorite poem throughout the day and come to the library for a 20-30 minute slot to share poems on our open microphone. I setup a poetry atmosphere with decorations, and each student has a moment to share poems.  We celebrate with rounds of snaps and quiet claps.

We also broadcast this live on Youtube Live(Google Hangouts On Air) so that other schools, family, and community can join in the 2 days of fun.  If you watch live, you are highly encouraged to tweet your snaps of celebration for students so that they can see your tweets on our media center projector.  They love to get shout outs.

Visit our Smore page for a full schedule as well as links to every live feed.  As each feed ends, it is automatically archived to Youtube for your future enjoyment.

 

https://www.smore.com/x4hh5

It’s already amazing to see where in the world people are taking a look at our event.

 

Celebrating Seuss & Read Across America

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Every year, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with guest readers reading his words in every classroom in our school.  This year, we had enough readers to send 2 guests to every class.  Many brought their own books, but we also had a big collection to choose from in the library.

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We thank so many members of our Barrow and local community for coming into our school to share stories with kids.  It’s important to see people sharing the power of words at every grade level.  Days like these remind us that you are never too old to enjoy a great picture book, have fun with words, and laugh out loud with friends when you get all tongue-tied.

Some of our readers this year came from UGA’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.  This was the fraternity that Dr. Seuss was a member of at Dartmouth.

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In addition to being readers, the fraternity brothers brought us some Elephant and Piggie books to add to our collection.  Each copy they donated was a Geisel Honor Book.  What a great way to honor Seuss and support literacy.  Thank you!

In addition to readers and having lots of Seuss books available to kids, I unboxed our latest book order from Bound to Stay Bound.  It was packed with graphic novels and many other fantastic books.  It didn’t take long for our ravenous readers to check out pretty much every graphic novel I ordered.  Some kids even returned a 2nd time to check out more.  Happy Read Across America!

World Read Aloud Day 2017

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Each year we looking forward to celebrating the joy of reading aloud during LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day.  This year’s official date was February 16, but we celebrated the entire week.

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It takes a lot of organization to pull off a week full of Skypes and Google Hangouts.  Planning began back in December.  Shannon Miller and I created a Google doc where people could share their World Read Aloud schedules.  Kate Messner also did a great blog post with a list of authors willing to do Skypes during the week.

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I got my teachers to sign up for slots, and then I started looking for connections on the Google doc.  Other librarians also signed up on my schedule.  Once all of the slots were full, our connecting authors and schools started communicating to decide which books to read.  I made a separate spreadsheet for myself to keep times, books, Skype names, and email addresses organized.

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Of course, weather and illness was a factor and caused a few cancellations during the week. Even with some cancellations, we still had a full week of connections.

We also experienced many technical difficulties with our internet filter and I had to communicate with our technology director on a daily basis to make sure that Skype and Google Hangouts was not being blocked by the filter.  A growth mindset and perseverance really helped push through the issues.

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Over the course of the week, we connected with schools in Georgia, Washington state, Missouri, Vermont, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina, Kansas, Texas, and Illinois.  We also connected with authors Dee Garretson (Boxcar Children), Hannah Barnaby (Bad Guy), Paul Fleischman (Seedfolks & Joyful Noise), and Jason Chin (Gravity & Grand Canyon).

The week was filled with many special moments.  Students were able to ask one another questions about their lives and make connections to students in another location.  Each connection helps us realize we are all part of the same world and have more in common than we realize.

We wove in a lot of map skills my looking at Google maps to see distances from Athens, Georgia to our connecting schools.  Students were able to talk directly with authors and ask them questions about the writing process.

Authors like Paul Fleischman turned around and open his filing cabinets to show us the original version of poems like Whirligig Beetles.  We had fun performing stories with students in two schools and hearing special songs performed by PreK students.

We were entertained by middle school students reading Ballet Cat and chanting out the text of Yo! Yes! with students in Seattle.  We also got to connect with Caitlin Ramseyer who was a teacher at our school last year and moved to Maryland.  It was fun to reconnect with her and her Kindergarten students.

If you’ve never tried Skype or Google connections, I highly encourage you to do it.  These events lead you to collaborative partners around the world and help our students step outside the bubble of their everyday lives.

Polar Express 2016

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Every year that we have our Polar Express Day, I’m reminded of the power of community. School-wide events are so rewarding, but they take a lot of work to pull off.  The library hosts multiple school-wide events every year.  A team of special elves come together to make Polar Express Day a special event for every child in our school.  It is often one of the big memories that students have about their year and their experience at Barrow.

Many schools ask us what goes into our Polar Express Day, so here’s a little peek:

  • Our principal creates a schedule so that every class in the school gets a time to come to the library to hear the Polar Express. Most 30-minute sessions 2-3 classes at a time
  • Janice Flory, our library volunteer coordinator (a PTA role) buys bells, string, hot chocolate, cups, and candy canes through PTA.  She also organizes volunteers to help each Polar Express session during the day
  • A group of volunteers works on stringing 600 bells so that every student in the school gets a bell.  This year it was a wonderful troop of Girl Scouts
  • I work on setting up the library with special decorations, chairs, and banners.  I make sure the technical side of Polar Express is working such as the train sounds, read aloud, and special music.  I also work with our volunteer coordinator to make sure all of the pieces are running smoothly.
  • A team of teachers come overnight the night before Polar Express Day and create special hallway decorations such as a train track, ticket booth, and ornaments
  • Our lunchroom makes huge batches of hot chocolate
  • On the day of the event, teams of volunteers help pour and serve hot chocolate as well as hang bells around each student and whisper “Always Believe”.  Kim Ness, parent volunteer extraordinaire & Janice Flory, library volunteer coordinator, help keep the volunteers organized all day.
  • Teachers do special activities in their classrooms such as making Polar Express tickets. They also hold the book as we listen to the story over the library speakers
  • Our family engagement specialist organizes a nighttime Polar Express for Barrow alumni
  • On the day of the event, there’s always lots of odd and ends that have to be done and we all work together to get it done. It is a tight schedule and takes quick moving in between sessions to reset everything for the next group
  • This year we added a green screen photo booth to take a picture with the book as the background. Teachers helped a lot with this as well as our principal.  Next year, we’ll need to have someone stationed here to help it run smoothly

 

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Prek enthusiasm #polarexpress #alwaysbelieve #bells

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Our green screen was a favorite activity this year.  Many teachers jumped in to help with this one because it was a little bit tricky if the app stopped working.  We’ll keep thinking how to make this station a little bit better next year.  Even with some glitches, we got some fun pictures of classes.

Each year holds special memories for Polar Express.  There are special little moments from students all throughout the day. I’m so thankful to have  community who comes together to create this magical event of always believing.

 

 

Storybook Celebration 2016

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Traditions. We have many. The annual storybook parade is one that has been around for a long time. Each year we try a few new things, but the hear of the storybook parade is celebrating books by dressing as our favorite characters, carrying the book, and showing off our costume and book to the community.

Trying to document the day. (Photo Credit: Paul Lee)

Trying to document the day. (Photo Credit: Paul Lee)

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Storybook family #barrowbuddies #storybook #parade

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The day begins with guest readers in every classroom. Janice Flory, our volunteer coordinator, sets up a Signup Genius to recruit 2 readers for each classroom. They gather in the library, select a book, take a group picture, and then get escorted to a classroom by a 5th grade BTV crew member.

I was really excited about the selection of books they had to choose from this year.

Next, the whole school gathered in the lunchroom for an assembly.  Since October 27 was Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, I read aloud The Bear Ate Your Sandwich and recorded approximately 675 listeners to the story.

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When we were a smaller school, we took time to walk across the stage and show off our costumes, but it is a challenge as we have grown. Now, we simply stand by row, do a little twirl, and then sit down facing the back of the cafeteria.  The costumes this year were amazing. I really pushed for students to think about characters they connected with and dress as that character.

At this point, we head out on our parade. Our route this year was the entire block of our school.

Students chant “read more books” as they walk down the sidewalk and parents and community members watch and blow their horns as they pass by.

Our Prek-4th grade classes return to school and begin literacy activities in their classrooms. Our 5th grade walks to the nearby Georgia Center to have hot chocolate and spend some time together.

Upon returning to school, our specials teachers, resource teachers, and media center offer special 30-minute sessions that classrooms can sign up to attend.

In the library, I offered a couple of experiences. Lower grades designed their own Halloween pumpkins using the Quiver augmented reality app.

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Pumpkin carving #ar #librariesofinstagram

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Upper grades used littlebits to make something spooky.  Both of these activities were connected to spooky stories we have in the library.

 

I loved seeing the designs that students came up with in both experiences.  It was a fast-paced session that pushed students to be creative, work together, problem solve, and innovate.  I hope that many will continue to explore littlebits beyond this fast session.

 

As always, this day was tons of fun but exhausting. It takes the whole community to make the event successful. Thank you to every student, teacher, family member, and community member who helped us make this day a success.

2016 Poem In Your Pocket Day 2

Today we wrapped up our 2016 Poem In Your Pocket poetry cafe with 13 more classes reading poetry into our open microphone. It was another day of many special moments.

5th graders wrote many original and powerful poems.

 

Students read poems written by other students.

 

Memorized Sylvia Plath

 

Awesome costumes were worn.

 

Teachers and families helped us document the day.

 

Take a moment to watch today’s archives.  You can still Tweet about our poems using the hashtag #barrowpoems

 

Here’s a collection of scenes from today:

Until next year…

Celebrate Poem In Your Pocket Day with Us!

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Poem in Your Pocket Day is a national celebration of poetry where everyone is encouraged to carry an original or a favorite poem in their pocket and share the poem with friends, family, and even strangers during the day. The official day is April 21 this year, but due to state testing we celebrate early and use this celebration to kickoff Poetry Month and National School Library Month.

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On April 7th and 8th, every class in the school will come to the library for a special poetry cafe. We’ll have special seating, special lighting, an open microphone, and a poet’s stool.  Students and teachers are welcome to come to the open microphone during their time slot and share poetry until time runs out.  No one is forced to come to the microphone, but what we’ve found is that almost every students and teacher in the school shares a poem on this special day.

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Family and community are welcome to attend in person, but we know that not everyone can join us in person.  For the past several years, we have broadcast our poetry readings live and encouraged people to leave comments for the poets.  Last year, we tried Google Hangouts for our event and encouraged people to tweet comments to our poets using a hashtag.

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This year, we are once again broadcasting our poetry and we would love for it to be the best year yet.  We would love for you to tune in to any of our poetry readings taking place throughout the day on April 7 and 8.  You can even tune in late by watching the archives.  Everything you need to know is housed on a special Smore page.

Everything you need to know about our event is here!

During the event, I will have a special “wall of social” displayed on our projection screen so that students can see any comments that you leave for them on social media such as Twitter and Instagram.  Be sure to use the hashtag #barrowpoems so that we see your comments.

Happy Poetry Month and School Library Month!  We hope to see you online!

Schedule:

Thursday April 7, 2016

9:40 2nd grade- Brink

10:00 2nd grade – Yawn

10:20 2nd grade- VanderWall

10:40 2nd grade- Hutcherson

11:00 Lunch

11:20 PreK-Trina

11:40 PreK-Wisz

12:00 Kindergarten-Hocking

12:20 Kindergarten – Sandifer

12:40 Boyle

1:00 1st grade Skinner

1:20 1st grade Wyatt

1:40 1st grade Stuckey

2:00 1st grade Cunningham

2:20 1st grade Seeling

Friday April 8, 2016

8:00 2nd grade Ramseyer

8:30 5th grade language arts

9:00 3rd grade- Clarke

9:30 5th grade language arts

10:00 3rd grade- Haley

10:30 3rd grade- Hart

11:00 3rd grade – Em

11:30 5th grade language arts

12:00 Kindergarten- Ms. Choate

12:20 Kindergarten-Ms. Lauren

12:40 Lunch

1:00 4th grade Coleman

1:30 4th grade Tesler

2:00 4th grade Weaver